APPENDIX D.

REPORT OF JOINT COMMITTEE OF LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL AND HOME OF ASSEMBLY, 1880.

  The joint Committee of the Council and House of Assembly appointed to consider the question of constructing a railway in this island have to report that they have given the most careful consideration to this matter, and beg to state the result of their deliberation.

  The question of the future of our growing population has for some time engaged the earnest attention of all thoughtful men in this country, and has been the subject of serious solicitude. The fisheries being our main resource, and to a large extent the only dependence of the people, those periodic partial failures which are incident to such pursuits continue to be attended with recurring visitations of pauperism, and there seems no remedy to be found for this condition of things but that which may lie in varied and extensive pursuits.

  This reflection would apply with force to the present population, but when we contemplate it in relation to our increasing numbers, the necessity of dealing with the subject urgently presses on our consideration.

  Our fisheries have no doubt increased, but not in a measure corresponding to our increase of population. And even though they were capable of being further expanded, that object would be largely neutralised by the decline in price which follows from a large catch, as no increase of markets can be found to give remunerative returns for an augmented supply.

  It is evident, therefore, that no material increase of means is to be looked for from our fisheries, and that we must direct our attention to other sources to meet the growing requirements of the country. Our mining industry may now be regraded as an established fact. Large areas of geological formation similar to that in which the mines are being successfully worked are known to exist, and there is every reason to believe from recent explorations that a great amount of wealth in copper and other ores is waiting the application of enterprise and capital to bring them into profitable use. Our agricultural industry, though prosecuted to a valuable extent, is yet susceptible of very enlarged development. Vast stretches of agricultural land, extending from Trinity Bay north, along the heads of Bonavista Bay, Gander Bay, and Exploits River, as well as on the west coast, need only the employment of well-directed labour to convert them into means of independent support for thousands of the population.

  We have in this town a large market for agricultural produce and live stock, which at present is mainly supplied from abroad, and as an illustration of what may be done by the cultivation of the land when a market is within reach, we have the fact that amongst the most prosperous of our labouring people are those who live by the land in the vicinity of St. John's, though the average conditions of fertility are far below those which exist in the interior of the Island. There are indications, moreover, leading to the conclusion that we shall hereafter be more dependent than before on the home supply of live stock, for in those places from which we have hitherto received our meat supplies, attention is being given to the English market, which is supposed to offer better prospects, and an advanced value may therefore be reasonably anticipated.

  With an improved market on the spot the inquiry is further suggested whether this Colony should not become an exporter of live stock to England, and we have little difficulty in affirming this position. For grazing purposes we have large tracts that, we believe, cannot be surpassed in British North America; and when we regard our proximity to England, and the all-important consideration of a short voyage for live stock, the advantages we possess in this connection are too manifest to be subject of question or argument.

  But to what end do these elements of wealth exist if they continue to remain neglected? For they will as before be outside the reach of the people if some energetic effort be not made to render them accessible to our centres of population. We have means of remunerative employment in those dormant resources, coincident with the spectacle so often about us of unemployed labour; and we cannot but feel that the Government fails in its duty if it have the power and does not employ it in connecting those resources with that industry, which ought to receive its satisfactory reward.

  Your Committee believe that no agency would be so effective for the promotion of the objects in view as that of a railway; and when they consider that there is no Colony of equal importance under the Crown without a railroad, and the advantages thereby conferred elsewhere in the enhancement of the value of property and labour, it is felt that in our circumstances no effort within the means of the Colony should be wanting to supply this great desideratum.

  They are not unmindful of the financial considerations involved, but having regard to the influence of such a work in elevating the people and enlarging the area of profitable industry, the Committee are convinced that ample compensation will be found in the improved condition of the country for any outlay the undertaking may require.

  We do not regard it per se as an enterprise that will pay, or as one that offers attraction to speculators, but as the work of the country, and in its bearing on the promotion of the well-being of the people, in which the returns are alone sought and will be found, it eminently commends itself to our judgment. In this sense we believe that, in time, it will amply pay its cost, and that the consequent advance in the comfort and independence of the people will fully attest the wisdom of its establishment.

  The Committee are of opinion that the present financial condition of the Colony makes the time favourable for entering on the project, and that it may be undertaken on conditions which will not unduly press upon our resources.

  The Committee believe that a narrow-gauge road might be constructed at a comparatively moderate cost, and that it would be found well adapted to the circumstances of this Colony, as well in regard to our means as to the physical condition of the country. The road should be made from St. John's through the peninsula of Avalon, and the favoured agricultural and timber regions north, to the mineral district, connecting the principal towns and settlements in Conception Bay and along the proposed line. Your Committee have had reference to the survey made in 1875, and it would seem to be ample for preliminary purposes, so far as it affects the district of Avalon and along the route already examined to the northern point indicated; but a further survey would be required to establish the immediate location of that, as well as of such branch lines as shall seem to be necessary and practicable for the carrying out of the proposed project.

  Your Committee therefore recommend the introduction and passage of an Act authorising the raising by loan of the required amount in sums not exceeding five hundred thousand dollars in any one year, and providing an organisation for carrying out the object in accordance with the views contained in this Report. The Committee further recommend that the Executive Government apply to Her Majesty's Government, requesting that they will guarantee the interest on the bonds of the Colony for such amount as may be required for the purpose of constructing the railroad, within the sum of one million pounds sterling, and we cannot doubt that this will meet with a favourable response when Her Majesty's Government are made aware of the exceptionally sound and healthy condition of our finances.

  All of which is respectfully submitted.

(Sgd.) W.W. WHITEWAY,           
Chairman.  
P.G. TESSIER,                
C.R. AYRE,                     
ROBERT THORBURN,     
A. SHEA,                        
JOHN RORKE,                
JOSEPH I. LITTLE,          
ROBERT J. KENT,           
A.M. MACKAY.                


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